This recipe is a playful — and flavorful — take on a classic pastry. Instead of a sweet filling, we use savory sauteed leeks and mushrooms combined with a generous amount of cream and cheese, then enclose it in a pretty, braided puff pastry shell. It’s easier to put together than it looks and is a real show-stopper, ideal for a brunch buffet or family-style party.
Fontina, Leek and Mushroom Braid
1 1/4 lb. (625 g.) purchased puff pastry
2 Tbs. unsalted butter
3 leeks, white and pale green parts only, chopped (about 2 cups/8 oz./250 g.)
12 oz. (375 g.) cremini or white mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml.) heavy cream
1 tsp. minced thyme
1/2 cup (2 oz./60 g.) shredded fontina cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Flour for rolling out the dough
1 large egg, beaten
Chill dough as directed.
In a frying pan, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium heat. Add the chopped leeks and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
Add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter to the pan and melt over medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until the juices evaporate and the mushrooms begin to brown, about 8 minutes. Return the leeks to the pan. Stir in the cream and thyme and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the cream is almost evaporated, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, stir in the cheese, and season with salt and pepper. Let cool completely.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit a 16-by-12-inch (40-by-30-cm.) rimmed baking sheet. Turn the baking sheet over, and place the parchment on the underside. Roll out the puff pastry on a floured work surface into a 16-by-12-inch (40-by-30-cm.) rectangle about 1/8 inch (3 mm.) thick. Transfer the dough to the parchment paper. Refrigerate the dough on the baking sheet for 15 minutes.
Remove the pastry from the refrigerator. Slide the pastry (with the parchment) onto a work surface. Trim the rough edges of the pastry. Spoon the mushroom mixture in a vertical 3-inch (7.5-cm.) strip down the center of the pastry, leaving a 1-inch (2.5-cm.) border at the top and bottom. Using the tip of a small sharp knife and cutting toward the filling on the diagonal, cut strips 1 inch (2.5-cm.) wide along the side of the pastry, stopping where the cut reaches the mushroom mixture. Fold the strips of dough diagonally, alternating left and right, over the filling. Tuck the ends underneath. Carefully slide the pastry with the parchment back onto the underside of the baking sheet. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
Remove the pastry from the refrigerator. Lightly brush the top of the pastry with some of the beaten egg. Bake until the braid is puffed and golden brown, 35-40 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes. Cut the braid crosswise into thick slices, transfer to a large platter, and serve warm. Serves 6-8.